From the moment a baby is born, they are like little sponges, absorbing all the information that comes their way, via all their senses. When you consider all that happens in the first two years of life, you begin to see just how clever these little people are. From the first day of helplessness, they go from being totally dependent on adults for all their needs to being able to crawl, walk, talk, draw, play, and (in the "terrible twos" - that sometimes start around eighteen months!)assert their own demands. We look back on those times and think "wow, it passed so quickly", and we are amazed at the changes this little person has gone through. Physically, intellectually and cognitively. Nature has her own timetable, and most children develop within certain time frames - some slightly slower, some slighter faster, than "the norm". It must always be remembered that each child is an individual, with unique talents and abilities of their own. Some children will grow up to be book smart, others will be creative in arts and crafts, and there will be children whose genius in maths or music will set them apart from other children. Naturally, parents want their child to be the best that it can be - so is there anything that you can do to promote your child's intelligence? Some people think so, and some of the ideas are so simple you'll wonder why everyone isn't doing them. Others are slightly more controversial, yet they work - children achieving greater heights - but at the expense of what? Is rote learning wrong?
How far should parents go? Are they doing it for the child, or for themselves?
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So, what can you do to give your baby the best start in life? Newborns bring out the best in most of us, and we hold them and coochy-coo, and stroke their skin - all things which give comfort to the baby and begin the learning processes. He/she begins to hear language, and the tones used in the use of language. He is lulled by it, and will eventually respond to it with baby talk of his own, which will later give way to the first "real" words that we are always so proud of. Singing lullabies also exposes him to language, and the message he receives is that it is good, because he is wrapped up in this nice, warm feeling of contentment and security. As he learns to speak, himself, language becomes a way of getting responses, and of communicating his needs.
Even small babies, say about 4 - 6 months old, like to look at colourful things, which is why nurseries have long had a tradition of the mobile above the cot. Many parents now are realising that babies of this age can be shown picture books, and spoken to about what's going on in the pictures. They may not appear to be absorbing knowledge but, again, it is exposure to the spoken word, and in the comforting realm of a warm body and loving arms - whether mummy, daddy or someone else. The feeling is that it is good. Although they may not be able to communicate their absorbance, you will find that the knowledge is being stored for later. So, although it seems a rather crazy idea, talking about colours, shapes, animals, etc are in fact paving the way for your baby to know these with more ease, in the future.
They also learn by the touching and tasting options that we adults tend to find so alarming. This is just a normal part of their perception of the world around them. Everything goes into their mouth, no matter how inappropriate we may deem it. It is a good idea, at this age, to have lots of easily washable toys that they can explore in this way - hard and soft, bright and colourful, safe toys with no bits that may come off and choke little ones. Soft building blocks can be put int he washing machine, plastic blocks can be washed in a diluted sterilizing solution as can rattles, teething rings, etc. Early Learning Centre have a wonderful sensory cube with different shaped objects which "post" into the cube, and in the U.S.A. Discovery Toys have a similar cube that is soft, and contains items of different fabrics - towelling, crinkly material, shiny material. These provide hours of enjoyment and can be cleaned over and over again, and are SAFE for little ones. We must always remember to supervise babies though, when they have these toys; sometimes, it is surprising what they manage to choke on, or to insert in some orifice. Some toys are deemed "not suitable for children under" and there is a certain age noted. It is always wise to take this into account, but to remember that this is not a RULE, and that with care many children younger than the given age are able to gain pleasure from it.
I have always liked to have cassette tapes of nursery rhymes and stories, and have often played these in the nursery when the baby has been put in the cot for a nap. They are soothing and give the little one a sense that they have not been abandoned. Dorling Kindersley have some, as do many other children's publishers.
Magazines Can Play A Big Part In Learning, Too